… is an old com­put­er term for remov­ing all of the soft­ware from the hard­ware and start­ing over again. Back when we could rm ‑rf we would occa­sion­al­ly find that a sys­tem had got itself into a non-recoverable state and need to be rebuilt from the ground up in order to func­tion again. Or on a hap­pi­er note when a project fin­ished we often wiped the soft­ware off of the hard­ware and repur­posed it for the next project.
While sys­tems have become much more resilient than they used to be, and rm ‑rf is rarely avail­able to the aver­age user, a com­pete wipe down of the bug­gy sys­tem using rm ‑rf’s new­er rel­a­tive, reset to fac­to­ry set­tings, is still the only solu­tion to cer­tain prob­lems. My iPhone got into one of those states recent­ly. Slow to load apps and data for sev­er­al weeks it final­ly reached the point of being unable to load the App Store for updates.
Google has as many solu­tions for these sorts of prob­lems as there are ways of cre­at­ing them. Every­thing from killing the run­ning apps to ful­ly eras­ing the phone’s mem­o­ry and rebuild­ing it from “like new.” It’s a fraught process. There is a fris­son of dread and hope. You will def­i­nite­ly start with the sim­plest least destruc­tive options but there’s always the ques­tion: What if you have to go all the way?
I found and tried a num­ber of folk reme­dies. Kill all the run­ning apps and then restart the phone. Tap any but­ton at the bot­tom of the App Store app 10 times to clear the cache — that worked for about 10 min­utes. Remove all of your net­work set­tings and reboot your WAP — okay so the WAP was lit­tle wedged, etc. In the end none of these worked. The last non destruc­tive option was a full back­up and restore. And easy but lengthy process that could  leave the phone in exact­ly the same bare­ly func­tion­ing state that I had start­ed in. An hour and half lat­er that’s exact­ly what happened.
So there I was — faced with the option of last resort. The nuke and pave. Leav­ing me with a blank phone with­out a sin­gle bit of the per­son­al­i­ty that I’d giv­en it over the last two years. That at once won­der­ful and fright­en­ing prospect of a new start. There is dread. It’s a colos­sal has­sle. You lose every­thing. Every set­ting, every App, every bit of data. Your con­tacts, your text mes­sages, your fit­ness band data, your pho­tos of the dog act­ing idi­ot­ic. All of it. It’s like los­ing your phone only with­out the cost of new hard­ware. A total PITA.
And yet, and yet. It is also an excit­ing prospect. The new, vir­gin ter­rain. All of the mis­cel­la­neous cruft and crap and use­less apps and pass­words for wi-fi points in air­ports you’ll nev­er vis­it again, and oop­sie pic­tures of your feet are gone. You get to start again with a sim­pler, clean­er, less over­whelm­ing device. You will also spend the next week adding back the apps, pass­words, and data that it turns out you were using but had for­got­ten about. You will lose all of your deeply ingrained kinet­ic mem­o­ry, the auto­mat­ic fin­ger press­es and unthink­ing scrolling though the pages to reach the thing that you need.
Still.. new ter­rain. As an adult how often do you get enter new ter­rain for such a small price? Sure you can change jobs, change hous­es, change spous­es, all of which take up a lot more than a lazy Sun­day after­noon babysit­ting a hard­ware reset and a cou­ple of hours of soft­ware updates and restor­ing data and pass­words. And so I did it. Set­tings -> Gen­er­al -> Reset -> Reset All Set­tings and pressed the many pop-up but­tons that con­firmed that I did indeed intend to remake my phone into a pris­tine ver­sion of its now non-functioning self.
We all love the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rein­vent our­selves. Even if it’s only in terms of lit­tle bit of pris­tine elec­tron­ic wilder­ness that we can remake to suit our now two years old­er and wis­er self. New phone wall­pa­per, a clean slate of wi-fi set­tings, and some nifty new apps. — Even if you end up reim­port­ing all of the depress­ing fit­ness band data.